Today was fantastic. We took a hydrofoil from the docks outside the Hermitage and made our way across the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof – the place where the Romanov emperors and empresses could “get away from it all”. The palace, modeled after Versailles was opulent. While we didn’t go in we had a wonderful several hours wandering the grounds and checking out the numerous fountains and cascades. These people really liked their waterworks. The highlight, at least for me, was when we wandered off the grounds and sought out a huge orthodox church that we saw from the water on the trip over. Amazing. This old wooden church was everything you would expect from a Russian Orthodox sanctuary – onion domes, intricate painting, colors galore. It was also fairly neglected which gave is a sort of timeless aura. And then we made our way inside – right into an Orthodox wedding!!! Thankfully I had packed a pashmina so I covered my shoulders and head and watched the ceremony. Crazy, right? It was so interesting – there are no chairs or pews and everyone was standing. The family and friends surrounded the bride and groom and the priest was chanting, there was incense in the air, gorgeous choir music. It really was something to see and I’ll never forget it. We also climbed the steeple and saw Peterhof from above. Once we’d descended the bride and groom were making their way outside and I saw the bride in all her glory. The most scandalous wedding dress I’ve ever seen. Seriously, you would have thought that it was something from Frederick’s of Hollywood. Why anyone would want to wear something like that on their wedding day is beyond me but, hey, it was amusing to us Americans. Following the wedding we went back to Peterhof and discovered more gorgeous buildings and fountains. And then jumped back on the hydrofoil. Once back in St. Petersburg we went to St. Isaac’s Cathedral where we climbed the 250 stairs to the top and were treated to sunset views of the city. It was at this point that both Scotty and I realized that the best way to approach a city as large as St. Petersburg is to admit defeat from the onset. Standing up there looking at all this city has to offer is overwhelming. So we’re taking the approach that we’re going to enjoy our time here, see what we can, and be grateful for this adventure. It’s so different here. I think that knowing so much of St. Petersburg was modeled after Paris gave me an expectation that it would be similar – and it ways it is. But it is so very different. There’s a different feeling and energy. And the fact that I can’t recognize most of the lettering that appears everywhere gives it a very foreign aspect that one does not get in Paris. Comparing the two cities is impossible. Paris is so well-known in our folklore its almost like you never really see it a first time but you’re always seeing it again. There’s a familiarity one has with the city even if you’ve never been there. Not so here. It’s foreign, strange, wonderful.
We’re still exhausted but so grateful that the weather has broken. I never thought I’d be saying hallelujah for rain but I am.